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Think there's a problem with your child's school? Think independent!

Lots of parents go for the school in their neighborhood and have positive experiences. Neighborhood schools serve many children well, and we are lucky that in our area we have so many dedicated educators who are not letting our state’s foibles discourage their teaching.

However, sometimes the local school doesn’t work out. Perhaps your child has an unusual learning style. Perhaps your child needs a faster pace, less testing, a more natural environment, or a focus on a particular academic area. Perhaps your child doesn’t have any special needs but your family does. If your neighborhood school is large and you are looking for a small community, that’s probably a bad fit. If you are a no TV, no junkfood family, you might be uncomfortable with your local school’s culture. Perhaps your child has done well in elementary school, but hates the social scene at her middle school. Perhaps your child’s grades have slipped because he is bored. Maybe you just like uniforms!

There are more reasons for choosing an alternative to your neighborhood public school than there are neighborhood public schools. Each family makes choices based on their own children, their own family values, and their own experiences. Luckily, for each family, there is probably something out there that fits their needs.

What sorts of independent schools are there?

Private parochial schools are usually aligned with a religious group. Saint Frances Central Coast High School, for example, is a Catholic school. Some private schools that are affiliated with religious groups have secular instruction, such as Mount Madonna School. Some private schools are based on a teaching philosophy, like Santa Cruz Montessori or Santa Cruz Waldorf. Some are based on a goal such as college preparation.

There are public schools that have a degree of independence as well. Charter schools are formed under the state charter school law and can have any sort of educational focus that they’d like. The charters in this county are diverse, from homeschool charter Ocean Grove to Alianza, a two-way bilingual immersion charter. Although charter schools are allowed to determine their own curriculum and methods, they do have to participate in the yearly No Child Left Behind testing and their charters, which must be renewed every five years, can be denied if they don’t show positive testing results.

Santa Cruz City Schools and Live Oak School District both have schools that are small school programs and thus exempt from testing requirements. Santa Cruz’s Branciforte Small Schools Campus hosts four small schools, each with its own educational focus and with a large degree of autonomy. Live Oak offers Ocean Alternative Education Center, a public homeschool program.

A large group of private schools in the county are holding the Central Coast Independent School Fair on Wednesday evening to give parents of kids from preschool to high school an idea of what they can find if they step out of their neighborhood public schools. If you are considering a change, or if you just want to see what’s out there, this is a good time to see the great variety of programs offered in our area.

If you are interested in finding a list of all the schools in our area, visit Santa Cruz Parent’s Resources page. If the school you are interested in is not at this event, it probably has an open house coming up soon. Check out their website or call for information.

Posted in Parenting.

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